Indian Wedding

by Nimrah Khan, ’13

As immigrants, my parents struggled to provide the essentials for my family: a good education, a safe neighborhood, a shot at the American dream. They also gave me something much richer: their Pakistani culture. I found belonging as my mother taught me how to make roti or as my dad sang songs that his mother had sung to him. My parents often impressed upon me that, even though they had come to this country for the opportunities, their hearts were still in Pakistan. They wanted to make sure we grew up with that culture and did not forget where we came from.

While I loved growing up surrounded by bright colors, spices, and the pounding rhythm of the dhol drum, I realized early on that sometimes my culture was not appreciated by others. What made me feel safe at home made me a target for ridicule outside of it. As a first generation student, kids would ridicule me, for anything from not having a “dot” on my forehead to the sound of my name. Because of my culture, I was singled out as “the other,” and the kids never let me forget it. They singled my parents out too, because they worked jobs associated with South Asian people and because they couldn’t speak English properly. I was made to feel alienated for the very aspects of my identity and community that once made me feel so safe.

At the time, I didn’t know how to react to this; I didn’t want to be excluded, but I also didn’t want to adapt to a culture that was so cruel and misunderstanding of anything foreign. So, I got over it.  I began to celebrate who I was and where I came from, distancing myself from the people who chose to only see me as different and therefore less worthy of respect.

When I decided to attend Stanford I thought that the pain of my journey as a South Asian woman would be over.  I assumed I was among a group of people to whom culture was precious, and deserving of respect. In the spring of my freshman year, I rushed a Greek sorority hoping to meet new people and have a community to belong to for the next three years. What I got sophomore year was a lot more than I bargained for. I met some wonderful, intelligent, and compassionate girls that I am proud to call my sisters. At the same time, I made myself part of a community that didn’t understand the power it wields on this campus and the way its events, image, and culture can affect its members and the university at large. I couldn’t believe that at Stanford, a school marked by unbelievable diversity and widespread tolerance, some students didn’t realize that having certain themed parties themed about a different group on campus was problematic.

For a long time, I kept silent. I didn’t feel as though I could voice my opinion. Like any organization, there was a central group making a majority of the decisions and, by default, creating a very specific image for our sorority. I felt like I couldn’t go against this group, even though I was now nominally an “insider,” a member of the community, not the “other” I had been all of my life. Part of the reason was that as a sophomore I didn’t understand how hurtful and insensitive some of these events could be.

This changed when an “Indian Wedding” event was placed on our social calendar this fall. For the first time, my own culture was being parodied and I began to realize the pain that others may have felt in the past.  I was angered because this event is, first and foremost, a “social” event where the emphasis is drinking. The justification was that this was a cultural event. If this had been an event on a Friday night, at a fraternity house, without drinking, I would have been happy to participate. I have no inhibitions about sharing the beauty and depth of my culture with people who are willing to participate in it.

Having a party is not a way to experience and meaningfully support a culture. There is a big difference between appropriating a culture and experiencing a culture. Appropriating involves incorporating a culture into your pre-established parameters of ‘party’ and ‘drinking games,’ – experiencing a culture involves embracing it in all its authenticity: actually attending a real South Asian wedding, visiting South Asia and understanding the socioeconomic realities of everyday life there, speaking to diasporic Indian communities about our struggles in the United States.

But to turn a wedding into progressive stations and turn sacred rituals into drinking games? There’s something fundamentally wrong with this and I don’t know if people can’t see that or refuse to.

For a while, I didn’t know what to do. I tried to speak to a few people about it, but the main argument thrown back at me was that since Indian people were planning the event, it couldn’t be offensive. To me this suggested a logic of tokenization and suggested a similar idea to “I can’t be racist I have a black friend.” It established a paradigm of a ‘good’ South Asian and a ‘bad’ South Asian – those who didn’t make a fuss were regarded as native informants while those who did were seen as rash and irrational.

I felt voiceless in a sorority that I had given so much to over the past few years. Whether or not you have specific members of a community involved with an event, it is important to make sure that all members of a community feel comfortable and represented. It is important to do outreach to other groups across campus and make the best effort to create an event that is not isolating for anyone.

My experience delineates a larger issue: Greek life on campus has a policy of ignoring the problematic and contentious, of actively exercising a policy of ignorance. Ignoring these issues only lets them fester inside people, making them feel worthless and abandoned; it just leaves the marginalized feeling worthless. No one should be made to feel like that by her own community, and certainly not at Stanford.

Sophomore year, I contributed to this atmosphere and mostly let it pass by me. I can’t do that anymore. I need to make it clear that I am a proud member of my sorority, and I love certain aspects of how caring and kind its members are. I also need to make it clear that I will not be silenced in fear of judgment by my peers. They can accept me as I am or not, but I am still a member of my sorority and as such am as much of a representation of it as any other girl.

Because I subscribed to this doesn’t mean that is okay that I did—it’s not ok for any of the incredibly intelligent, passionate, and gifted kids at Stanford to perpetuate hurtful stereotypes. Most of us have participated in events that are meant as “celebrations” but are, at heart, cultural caricatures, whether they are Cinco de Mayo or an Indian Wedding.  This is not acceptable. Culture is not a commodity.

It became apparent that this event was going to continue regardless of my discomfort, regardless of the fact that it undermined my own identity.  My culture was, and is, the most meaningful gift my parents were able to give to me. The beautiful rituals, customs, and traditions are the foundations for so many lives—how could they turn that into a keg stand? What Stanford students may not realize is that South Asian people have historically been called primitive, called backwards, and sometimes even killed for expressing our culture. As diasporic South Asians living in a post-9/11 world we have been ridiculed and made to feel ashamed of our culture. It is a struggle for us to keep it alive within our own communities and yet people outside of our communities appropriate it to be seen as ‘cool,’ ‘exotic,’ and ‘fun.’

How can the gorgeous folds and falls of a red sari be modified into a red scarf? The very idea of someone creating a poor semblance of what an Indian bride would wear and calling it “costume” dehumanizes an entire culture. My mother and father were not wearing costumes when they wed 27 years ago.

They wore their heritage and their ancestry. Their pride.

It offends me, it offends my parents, and it’s disrespectful to so many different communities. My culture is not an excuse to drink. These sorts of events perpetuate cultural stereotypes, and why would Stanford students chose to perpetuate those stereotypes when we can fight them? My culture is not an exotic fetish. My culture is not here for you to feel unique and ‘multicultural.’

If nothing else, I hope this situation can start a dialogue about how “the other” is treated within the Greek community and Stanford at large. I want to be able to feel both ‘Greek’ and Pakistani and I should not have to compromise one of my identities for the other.    Even though we self-select ourselves into certain communities, we should not have to not sacrifice our identities or our cultures. We should be bringing these parts of ourselves as contributions, as gifts, to the community at large. There is a lack of, and a need for, open communication and sensitivity within the Greek culture at Stanford. Expressing an opinion is not an attack. Going against the grain does not mean I am any less Greek or any less a member of my sorority. I want my sisters to understand; I want to enrich my community. And sometimes that means standing up for who I am and what I believe in.


Nimrah is a senior majoring in Classics with a concentration in Ancient History. She has studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, and Oxford, England, where she was able to pursue her passion for the representation of women in Greek mythology. After graduating in June, she wants to pursue this interest with Women’s Rights law.

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46 thoughts on “Indian Wedding

  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t really think it’s appropriate for you to be complaining about cultural appropriation when your Facebook profile photo is of you dressed up as Eve…

  2. Makshya says:

    To those who think it’s appropriate to dictate what is victim blaming, who needs to “lighten up,” what distinguishes sensitivity from oversensitivity–

    Why do you get to decide what is offensive to other people?

    Any sentiment shared that expresses someone being uncomfortable or offended, on various levels, is valid. I think it’s wonderful that this comment thread (at best) is a forum for people to negotiate their own relationships with their racial and cultural identities.

    However, that reflection of your own identity doesn’t allow you to belittle or embolden Nimrah’s – those narratives, while they share some idea of collective marginality, have distinct and beautiful differences – and it isn’t appropriate to place Nimrah’s experience within your own history in a way that is imposing, patronizing, or condescending of hers.

    To Nimrah–

    Kudos to being able to think out and articulate your set of values, the communities you belong to, and the sometimes-clashing intersections of those co-existing worlds. I know all too well where you come from, and I readily welcome your thought process about all things relevant to cultural appropriation in its many forms, sensitivity, and what is subtly or grandly problematic.

  3. Anonymous says:

    thank you so much for writing this article — i felt similarly when i found out about this event and am so glad that you voiced your opinion, particularly when so many people seem to just not understand or actively disagree.

  4. Paanch says:

    Indian guy here, and one who’s actually lived in India for a majority of his life.

    There are several things to consider:

    First: it seems that Nimrah is concerned that alcohol is being served at these events. This highlights the difference between “Indian” and “Pakistani”. As she notes above, Pakistanis are Muslims and thus unlikely to serve alcohol at her events. I can see why she would think that a wedding and alcohol should not be mixed. However, I’ve been to many many weddings in India, and the vast majority of them serve alcohol. In fact, it’s not an Indian wedding in my book unless at least one of my uncles is drunk out of his mind.

    If it was a “Pakistani Wedding” event,and there was free-flowing booze, I can see why she would raise an eyebrow. but it’s an Indian Wedding, and people drink at Indian weddings.

    Second: I hate to say “lighten up” for fear that I will be accused of ‘victim blaming’ or ‘tokenization’, but it really does apply here. As people have noted, there are everything from Toga parties to Bar/Bat Mitzvah frat parties. No one seriously thinks that greek culture is defined by Toga parties, just like no one thinks that Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are defined by jello shots (even though I’ve never been to a Bar Mitzvah – see how I’m inferring?). I honestly think you’re not giving people enough credit on this one.

    Third: Another commenter suggested that America was the culture most accepting of others, and they were angrily shot down by what I can only imagine are people who have not lived much outside the US. Pakistan and India are living proof that the rest of the world is not as culturally open and accepting as the US. As someone who is incredibly thankful to be in the US, I can say that no country is perfect, but the US’s track record on cultural acceptance is far better than India’s, Pakistan’s, or any of the other countries I’ve lived in. There’s a reason the Muslim youth of France riot every spring and burn cars. There’s a reason anti-Muslim and anti-Gypsy sentiment are incredibly mainstream within Europe (the only thing worse than being mistaken for a Turk in Germany is being mistaken for a Gypsy) And there’s a reason that Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus all have a strong mistrust of one another within India today.

    Fourth: The part of this column that saddened me the most was its reference to your Indian sorority sisters as “tokens” who were just being used the way a “black friend” would be used. This logic is incredibly dehumanizing to them. I don’t know them, but I assume that the Indian sisters you had who planned this event took an ACTIVE role in planning it, and perhaps even came up with specific ideas (contrast this to the black friend, who merely exists). By calling them a token and suggesting that they are a tool of more sinister/discriminatory forces, you deny them agency and end up creating the very dichotomy you claim to oppose: you’ve now separated the world into South Asians who “don’t make a fuss” and those who do. In fact, what you’re doing is far worse than what those so-called ‘good Indians’ are doing, because while they assume you simply have a different point of view, you imply that they’re acting disingenuously and simply don’t want to rock the boat or “make a fuss”. Consider instead the possibility that they genuinely don’t have a problem with the event that they’re planning, and ask yourself why the differences emerge. You might realize that 1) Indian and Pakistani cultures differ, particularly on the issue of alcohol consumption at weddings and 2) many Indian people do not see ‘Indian wedding’ themed party as a caricature of their culture, but rather as a fun celebration of some small parts of how they and their ancestors lived.

  5. Jason says:

    For those commenting on the editorial of greek life: if you read the article, it is clear that the term “greek” revolves around the fraternity/sorority system at Stanford. If you want to know what “Greek” means, as in Greece, I’d go elsewhere. This is evident in the post and I would do I careful reading before posting such comments that represent an ignorance in literacy.

    Ms. Khans’ post is about a specific event and how it made her feel. Many comments I have been reading, no matter from south asian people or otherwise, represent the necessity of dialogue before planning such an event. If even one person feels undermined or inadequate, this should be a clear sign from the “greek” community to listen to the thoughts of those who feel disenfranchised.

  6. Sophi says:

    This was such a wonderful piece, Nimrah, both thought-provoking and well-written. To many of those commenters asking about whether she’s participated in St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de mayo, and other celebrations associated with a particular culture, I just want to put it out there that many of use choose not to participate in those events precisely because they seem somewhat demeaning at their core.

    • Anonymous says:

      You sound like a ton of fun. Maybe you abstain, but I doubt that Nimrah has rejected every single offer to participate in St. Patrick’s day, Oktoberfest or Cinco De Mayo. Has she never had a Sake Bomb, worn an oversized Sombrero, or dressed in a Toga? Why is it so horrible poke fun at one culture but not another? Heck, I’m pretty sure her sorority does a “Phiesta” party. Would be interested to hear her thoughts on this.

      • esqg says:

        I don’t know Nimrah at all. But if someone has participated in distorting others’ cultures without thinking about it, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider what they’re talking about; it just means everyone should also give some thought to the things you mentioned. I’ve definitely heard enough about Cinco de Mayo to think it is too problematic to join in.

        I’m Irish-American and most of my family enjoys the mainstream celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day and our own quieter ones; I don’t enjoy the way it’s used just for drinking, but, especially as Irish-Americans no longer suffer from racism, I don’t personally think it’s particularly harmful to Irish culture. Still, it is definitely missing out on adventures in Celtic mythology and Irish folktales, mythic connections between human virtues and land fertility, jigs and reels, and more, in favor of very superficial appropriation. But to me that’s part of why the “you’re no fun” arguments don’t make much sense: Americans are missing out on really interesting things when they/we bend all “cultural” celebrations into very boring “party” molds.

      • Anonymous says:

        @esqg (no comment button under your post…)
        “But to me that’s part of why the “you’re no fun” arguments don’t make much sense: Americans are missing out on really interesting things when they/we bend all “cultural” celebrations into very boring “party” molds.”

        I don’t think you have to dismiss all generic parties in order to appreciate “authentic” (whatever that means) cultural celebrations. People enjoy them for very different reasons. Would I love to attend a lecture on Irish folklore or see an Irish dance? Yes! Would I also enjoy putting on a funny green hat and drinking with my buddies? Of course. They are not mutually exclusive.

        In short, I don’t think you give Stanford students enough credit. No one thinks that light-hearted drinking parties are a replacement for the real thing.

  7. Faye says:

    Nimrah,

    While I understand where you’re coming from, I think you need to accept that no one was intentionally trying to turn your cultural heritage into a drinking game. I’m Jewish and there is a Greek event labeled “Bar/Bat Mitzvah.” This event is fun and is not poking fun at my religious beliefs. If I took your stance, I should be offended that Greek Organizations turned a coming-of-age occasion into another excuse to drink. Nevertheless, I think, if anything, that these Greek organizations show more diversity by being less sensitive to these issues. You need to loosen up! I take pride in my Jewish background, but can also have the ability to let go and realize when fun is fun. I don’t want to make any false assumptions about your experience in the Greek community and am not doubting you’ve felt marginalized. The fact that your Greek organization recognized your heritage as something to be celebrated should make you smile! There is another event on campus called “Wedding” and people drink and wear crazy outfits such as a costume wedding dress. That’s an American tradition and no one feels upset that people are using a cultural staple to have fun on a Saturday night. There is no harm meant.

    Just my thoughts! I appreciate your honesty though and thought your article was well written.

    • Nimrah says:

      About the American traditions– we’re in America! So I think there is some core understanding of the culture. If an Indian group on campus were to throw this party, I wouldn’t be mad; but it wasn’t thrown with cultural sensitivity in mind 🙂

    • esqg says:

      “The fact that your Greek organization recognized your heritage as something to be celebrated should make you smile!”

      But it did not. Even if you might have smiled were you in Nimrah’s shoes, that doesn’t make her reaction less valid. There is almost always no harm meant, when people misunderstand and possibly distort others’ cultural symbols; it is all the more important to learn from Nimrah’s clearly expressed perspective here, so we all know how we might similarly hurt people without meaning to.

      Also, initial good intent is not an excuse for the organizers to refuse to listen to those who are saying “you may not be aware, but this is harming me.” Unfortunately, the more planning people have put in the less likely they are to want to acknowledge objections, and this comes up again and again. But at that point, they are deliberately prioritizing their “fun” at others’ expense.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Don’t let things get to you.
    Try to have some fun.

    Cheers.

  9. Anonymous says:

    As someone else mentioned, this whole post is incredibly ironic. You complain about the “appropriation” of Pakistani/Indian culture while you yourself are a member of a sorority, which uses Greek letters for its name and whose members call themselves Greek. In case you are not aware, Greek people are an ethnic/cultural group in the same way that Pakistanis are.

    Why don’t you complain that the Greek system “appropriates” and mocks elements of Greek culture? Imagine if instead it was called the “Indian System” and Fraternities and Sororities chose their names from letters of the Hindi Alphabet and members referred to themselves as “Indians.” I’m sure you would be offended in that scenario. So why is “Greek” any different? Is it because Greeks are considered “White”? Is it only wrong when the culture being appropriated is non-white?

    The hypocrisy here is quite apparent.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wait, so our frat culture is the same culture the people in Greece follow??? That explains why they are in so much debt!….

      Seriously, stop living under a rock and do some thinking before trying to argue. The frat culture is called “Greek” almost exclusively because of the letters used. They have NOTHING to do with real Greek culture.

      • Anonymous says:


        That’s all I have to say. How is this not “offensive” to Greeks? Is their culture not being appropriated for a drinking party here? Seems that someone else is living under a rock.

    • Nimrah says:

      Once again, to quote Yule, “You can hardly call the use of Greek letters a nod to Greece culture, unless you want to say that Physics, Math, Chemistry, etc. do the same with their use of Greek letters for variables. “

      • Anonymous says:

        As I said in my post, would you be offended if instead of the “Greek System” it was the “Indian System” and members called themselves “Indians” and used Devanagari letters for their names, even if that was the only part of Indian culture that they appropriated?

        I’m willing to bet that you would.

      • Nimrah says:

        Nope! I would totally join an Indian system!

      • Saat says:

        “You can hardly call the use of Greek letters a nod to Greece culture, unless you want to say that Physics, Math, Chemistry, etc. do the same with their use of Greek letters for variables. “

        This is incorrect. In math, the greek letters are used as placeholders to represent variables. Greek letters are used in the Frat/Sorority system as a deliberate reference to Greece – for instance, the name of the sorority umbrella organization is National PanHELLENIC Conference (Hellenic meaning Greek).

        If your argument is that the term “Greek” has been appropriated to now mean “frat” without the connotation of the nation of Greece, you are partially correct (although caricatures of the Parthenon (a temple, mind you)) are often associated with frats. However, to the degree that the term ‘Greek’ has diverged from its original meaning, it is due to merely the passage of time. Perhaps in 300 years, an “Indian Wedding” party will not be associated with Ms. Khan’s culture. Time will tell.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think the last commenter is being a little rude in his critique of your article, however, he/she does bring up a very interesting point about the irony of the Greek System. The entire thing is a parody on someone else’s culture. So unless you have never been to a Toga Party, an Oktoberfest Party, or any St. Patrick’s Day celebration (all of which are very clearly excuses to drink while appropriating cultural stereotypes), you are being pretty hypocritical.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Is pakistan the same thing as India?

    • Nimrah says:

      Hi!

      Pakistan was part of Indian until 1947, so apart from religion (Pakistan is Islamic) they have a very shared cultural heritage!

      • Anonymous says:

        Hi Nimrah,
        As someone who has been raised with the richness of Indian culture, I would like to point out some flaws in your argument. First off, I would like to commend you for writing your perspective so eloquently. I do believe that you have some fact behind your arguments. However, at the same time, I cannot help but notice the fact that you are Pakistani. I know that India and Pakistan do come from the same region of the world and are usually confused with one another. Yet, as someone who claims to be so in touch with her culture, I am not sure why you do not realize the significant differences between what happened at the event that day and what happens at a wedding in terms of your Pakistani culture. I know you mentioned that India and Pakistan have a very shared culture. One very important difference, I believe, is religion. Islam and Hinduism fundamentally have no similarities. I think that this is very ill-mannered of you to mix the two together. They are separate religions and have very separate beliefs. One has faith in a diety and a prophet, the other has over 33,000 dieties. The simple truth is you have conveniently mixed the two religions together to form one culture, when you and I, and every other Indian and Pakistani, know that our cultures and religions are very different. The “ceremony” at that wedding was a Hindu ceremony and I think that it is very confusing of you, for someone who claims to be so in touch with her culture, to mix these two together. I am Indian, I have attended more Indian weddings in my family than Pakistani weddings, but I have attended my fair share of both. And if alcohol is your true concern, I can tell you that Indians rage harder than you can imagine. Indian weddings and alcohol are synonymous. The red sari is a symbol of an Indian wedding, a culture that is far different from that of Pakistan. The seven steps that were applied to drinking games — those seven steps are Hindu beliefs. I am actually intrigued to start a discussion with you on your perspective of my claims mentioned here. Discussing these events and showing my Indian immigrant parents your article, I wanted to lead a family discussion surrounding your beliefs — to see if I too should have an issue with this event. My parents too were bothered by the fact that you attempt to blend two very different but equally rich cultures and have them come off as one general culture. Pakistan was not part of India until 1947. It was part of the British colonial lands there. To my grandparents, who were smuggled out of Kashmir to avoid being attacked by Muslim revolutionaries in 1947, we are not the same culture nor do we have a huge overlapping belief system.

        I am glad that you spoke out and did what you think was right. I commend your ability to do so. But at the end of the day, your flaws in your argument are based on incorrect “facts” and for someone so in touch with your culture, I hope that you realize that Islam and Hinduism, Indian and Pakistani, are very different. You have years of war and conflict to demonstrate this point as well. We are two separate countries with two distinct cultures and two different religions. No one had any intention of offending Hindus and there is definitely no evidence of Pakistani mockery. I believe you should reevaluate your argument on these simple facts. Like I said, I support you speaking out and I understand your perspective and claims, I just believe that logically, from being so in touch with your culture, you ought to understand why the fact that you claim that India and Pakistan “have a very shared cultural heritage” is completely incorrect.

        Thank you. I hope you approach this critique with the same manner and eloquence in which you did with this article.

      • Makshya says:

        From the anonymous post attached to this particular comment, I agree with many pieces about what you said – except the way you finished out the piece.

        “No one had any intention of offending Hindus and there is definitely no evidence of Pakistani mockery. I believe you should reevaluate your argument on these simple facts. ”

        Intent, as important as it is, does not dictate whether someone/something is offensive or not. Several things that take place (especially on Stanford’s campus) do so without the intent to offend anyone, but offend deeply regardless of that. I imagine that’s what’s hardest about this newer wave of conversation about what is culturally appropriate, problematic, etc.

        The other thing is that I think that even if it’s not Pakistani mockery, it’s incredibly complicated to take part in the cultural rituals and traditions of any culture if the majority of the group comes from outside of it and has no genuine desire to actually take part in the cultural experience. No offense to them/us, but I’m sure that’s not what any of us had in mind that weekend – it’s just a (unnecessary and increasingly problematic) way to spice up our drinking experience…

        I think your comments distinguishing India and Pakistan are critical in the midst of this conversation, but I don’t think Nimrah should re-evaluate her argument based on those latter ideas because I think those ideas are flawed and conflict deeply with what Nimrah’s actual sentiments and frustrations are.

      • Anonymous says:

        Makshya,

        Just to clarify, by those “simple facts” I did not mean the fact about the intent of those involved, I was talking about my notes on the clarifications between Indian versus Pakistani. Sorry, I realize now that may have been confusing.

        Thanks for your input though. Sorry for the confusion!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think the same sensitivity should probably also be extended to those of actual greek decent.

  13. Smarter Anonymous says:

    This article is almost too ridiculous to comment on. First of all, let me point out the obvious irony of a sorority girl complaining that cultures are used as excuses for drinking. I know white people are generally not considered to have interesting or “respectable” cultures, but what do you think “Greek” is?! I think it’s pretty sad you take yourself this seriously and have spent three years in college and haven’t toughened up yet. You do realize that kids in this country (as well as kids in your parents’ country I’m sure, no matter how much you’d like to romanticize it) make fun of white and/or American kids too. It’s time to grow up and stop taking everything so personally. I’m sorry you took anyone who ever said a mean word to you as insulting your culture. Also, your claim that American culture is “cruel and misunderstanding of anything foreign” only too clearly demonstrates that you grew up in this country. The United States is the culture (though I’m sure you don’t consider it a culture) that is most accepting of other cultures. It’s not called a melting pot for nothing. Not only do we pride ourselves in accepting other cultures, we openly invite them to join and contribute to and change our own. Finally, your idea that college kids drinking at a themed party insults that culture is pretty narrow-minded. American college kids have turned all kinds of American holidays into an excuse to drink (think liquor-treating). People celebrating your culture by wearing saris to a party where alcohol is served should not offend you. In that case, the only themed party you would be ok with having is a group hug. Oh wait, people without arms might be offended…

    • Yule says:

      Idiocy. First of all, frats and sororities have nothing at all to do with Greek culture. The only reason they’re called Greek is because of their use of Greek letters in their names. You can hardly call the use of Greek letters a nod to Greece culture, unless you want to say that Physics, Math, Chemistry, etc. do the same with their use of Greek letters for variables. So your claim of hypocrisy is ridiculous. Also, throwing American culture around lightly and using it as an excuse to drink is completely different from do the same for a minority culture. Dumbing down an American holiday and taking bits and pieces of it to use in a progressive isn’t going to leave any of the party goers with misconceptions about American culture, because we live in it and know all about it. Any glaring mistakes or oversimplifications would be easily recognized because the party goers are already living in and completely aware of the reality of the culture. However, if you held a culturally inaccurate “Indian themed” progressive, most of the party goers would not realize this and go away with misconceptions of the culturally, most of which would most likely simply reinforce existing stereotypes. Even the party goers who did recognize the mistakes, may still go away with an skewed perception of the culture, simply because they are not as exposed the culture and haven’t had it cemented into their minds. As for the rest of your post, based on your suggestion that Nimrah “toughen up” and your comments hinting at reverse discrimination (along with nearly everything else you said in your post), I’d say you’re not very racially/culturally conscious. Attempting to explain to you why these ideas are problematic would most likely be futile, so I won’t.

      • Jason says:

        In response to the above comment, what is an “american culture”? America,in my opinion, has been built on the thoughts of immigrants and those who have already occupied the the region – the Natives. I think you misread this post in thinking “Greek” means people form Greece. Instead, it means people a part of the Greek community (people in the fraternity/sorority system at Stanford).

        Also, what is an “american holiday”? Is it Thanksgiving or Columbus Day where the lives of thousands were ignored for a greater cause of colonization? When you mention “oversimplifications”, I would look at your own thoughts and writings and think about the “American” traditions that have deeply oversimplified the idea of Americana or the idea of a singular American identity.

        The America I grew up in represents a place of belonging for all. And while this has been difficult with discrimination and oversimplification (racial stereotypes, housing segregation, etc), it has been a sentiment that many of us have associated with our identity. Before you oversimplify this country, I would look around your surroundings, or even the broader Stanford community, and recognize that the oversimplification you speak of is all too present on this very campus. This piece is an exact response against it and delineates steps to overcome such narrow minded viewpoints in terms of an Indian wedding.

      • Anonymous says:

        The argument that you have made here that “most of the [Stanford] party goers would not realize this and go away with misconceptions of the culturally, most of which would most likely simply reinforce existing stereotypes” is incredibly insulting as a student of this great, diverse, and culturally-accepting university. If you honestly believe that a Stanford student (a person admitted to Stanford and has stuck around to meet enough people to be invited to and involved with a party) would leave a themed party and believe that whatever they just encountered must be what truly defines that cultural event and represents that culture then you are the one who is truly exhibiting “idiocy” and ignorance. Who has ever left a Toga Party with the conception that all Greek people do is wear a white bedsheet and entwined leaves on their head in a halo-like shape, drink copious amounts, and run around and socialize until they have to fall asleep, and honestly believed that that is what their culture is all about. Who has ever left a party on Cinco de Mayo and been enraptured by the idea that all Mexicans do is sit around and drink tequila all day, and honestly believed that that is what their culture is all about. Stanford students, and Stanford students in the Greek community are much more than that and taking a stab at the Greek community here like that is disheartening and incredibly insulting. Look at yourself in the mirror and be able to be self-deprecating. If you cannot laugh at yourself, or if you do not have the ability to not take yourself so seriously then you probably are not a fun person to be around. Stanford is all about intelligent students (one’s who have the discretion to leave an “Indian Wedding”-themed party and know that that is not what all Indians are like) who are fun people too. Be intelligent and be fun. If we cannot do that at Stanford then say goodbye to a well-rounded community.

    • Cyana says:

      To your points:
      1. Nimrah doesn’t make a comment about whether America has a culture and whether it’s worthy of respect. She doesn’t even approach implying that. “Greek” is for the letters, not Greek culture — a “Big Fat Greek Wedding” event would be more along the lines of Nimrah’s argument, and that’s clearly something different than identifying with letters. Also, your assumption that sororities are excuses to drink is pretty limited, and reducing Nimrah to “a sorority girl” also fails to recognize that she has an identity outside of her sorority affiliation.
      2. “Toughen up”? That’s some victim blaming. Let’s tell perpetrators to educate themselves and be aware of their actions before we tell the marginalized to stop speaking up. Plus, writing on a blog isn’t a sign of weakness — as Nimrah notes, speaking up against the established order within her organization is tough.
      3. Why does it matter that people make fun of white kids? Does that make ridiculing any culture okay? Probably not. Nimrah doesn’t claim to be special in feeling this way.
      4. Why does it matter where Nimrah grew up? Why would that detract from her argument? Being American and being Pakistani can both be important to her identity.
      5. I’m sure there are many people that would disagree with your claim that the US is the culture most accepting of others besides its own (speaking of romanticizing a culture). English-only education? The bombing of the Sikh gurdwara? You use ‘we’ far too broadly, and forget that middle schoolers — and college students — can be ignorant enough to perpetuate offensive behavior without thinking about it.
      6. On the drinking issue: liquor-treating is not a culture. Read again the paragraph about appropriating vs. experiencing. Finally, note that Nimrah is Pakistani, an Islamic country where drinking might not be so widely practiced, and that associating a religious taboo with a joyous, family-oriented occasion might not be so benign.
      7. Finally, if you’re going to be sarcastic on the Internet, about something that’s clearly personal and hurtful to some people, at least don’t hide behind Internet anonymity. It makes you a crueler person than you are in real life.

    • Anonymous says:

      Partial disclosure: I’m a South Asian Male
      I’m going to go point by point just because there are too many things to point out in the paragraph that came from your small mind:
      ” I know white people are generally not considered to have interesting or “respectable” cultures, but what do you think “Greek” is?!”
      College “Greek” culture is so far removed from real Greek culture that there aren’t even in the same ball park. I bet the Greeks don’t have our “Greek” culture. There is nothing to be offended about a new, made up culture. South Asian culture on the other hand is real, and actively followed IN South Asia.
      ” I think it’s pretty sad you take yourself this seriously and have spent three years in college and haven’t toughened up yet. ”
      What does this even mean? So if people make fun of how you have a lisp you should just “toughen up?”. Thanks for the great advice!
      “You do realize that kids in this country (as well as kids in your parents’ country I’m sure, no matter how much you’d like to romanticize it) make fun of white and/or American kids too. ”
      WRONG. White people are actually particularly well respected in South Asia due to Hollywood/the internet. Most people in SOuth Asia think white people are “cool”.I’m from South Asia…
      “The United States is the culture (though I’m sure you don’t consider it a culture) that is most accepting of other cultures.”
      In general this is true. This is because America is a country of immigrants. However, that doesn’t mean there is no work left to be done in terms of changing our attitude.

      • Just wanted to emphasize that last point: America is extremely accepting of other cultures, but it is important to remember that the civil rights movement was only 50 years ago, racial profiling still exists and cultural stereotypes still permeate. Pretending these problems don’t exist won’t help anything. When people speak up and start a dialogue, we can begin to come up with solutions.

    • esqg says:

      “Smarter anonymous”? Normally I try to engage comments for real, but your arrogance, your condescension, and your apparent pleasure in maintaining an insulting tone throughout this comment, are incredible. If I were moderating comments I’d have deleted yours for its sheer disrespect.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Nimrah,

    As a fellow “Greek” South Asian, I absolutely understand where you’re coming from. I too often feel marginalized in what appears to be an often racially homogenous culture. I love my sisters and the supportive community around me as much as you describe, but there are certain aspects of Greek life that remain incongruent with my culture and values. Racism and cultural intolerance is far more present than one would expect in a place as liberal and diverse as Stanford, whether inside or outside Greek life. I applaud you for raising your voice, and we need more people like you to bring these much needed changes to Greek life to make them more not only to be inclusive and “accepting”, but to celebrate the diversity of Stanford students and our varied backgrounds.

    • Nimrah says:

      I feel exactly the same. I’m getting a lot of responses from Stanford students in general, but hopefully some of the dialogue will open up within Greek groups as well!

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